Abuse from patients no longer just NHS problem

Independent Practitioner Today/Medical Defence Union Survey

By Robin Stride

Abuse from patients has increasingly been a working hazard for doctors in the NHS, but the problem is now rife in private practice too.

A joint survey by Independent Practitioner Today and the Medical Defence Union (MDU) reveals as many as one-in-five independent practitioners have suffered abuse from their private patients during the pandemic.

95% of doctors said patients had been understanding about the changes they had to make, but 21% reported they had been abused by patients and 28% had been involved in a complaint. 

Doctors reported their main medico-legal concerns centred around increased waiting times for treatments, use of remote consultations and communication difficulties.

Stressed doctors

Dr Caroline Fryar, MDU head of advisory services, called it ‘worrying’ that half of the 227 respondents to the study felt stressed or anxious on a weekly basis.

A third admitted they were going to work when they do not feel fit to do so. 

She said: ‘Unfortunately, some respondents told us that they decided to stop private practice or worry they are going to be held responsible for issues they have no control over. 

‘Consequently, it’s important for independent practitioners to be provided with the necessary support when dealing with the additional pressures.’  

The MDU operates a peer support network for its members who are facing medico-legal challenges, such as complaints, inquests, GMC investigations and claims. 

This enables them to speak with a fellow member who has ‘been in their shoes’ and who can offer both practical and emotional support and guidance.

Over half (58%) of consultants working in independent practice provided additional NHS services to support colleagues and patients during the pandemic. 

Over a third of respondents said they had provided additional NHS services for the duration of the pandemic, while 23% provided their support during the height of the crisis. 

Just under 60% of consultants reported that private practice services had decreased during the pandemic, with just 28% saying they had increased.  

Nearly three-quarters of consultants (72%) said they would feel reassured if the Government took action to shield healthcare staff from litigation against the NHS caused by the pandemic.

 See www.themdu.com/press-centre/press-releases/mdu-concerned-about-mental-health-impact-of-pandemic-related-litigation 

Has abuse by private patients increased during the pandemic in your private practice? And what was your response? Write to robin@ip-today.co.uk. Your identity will remain confidential